That Day

Tiger Fans; After The Game

“Tiger Fans; After The Game,” acrylic on canvas paper 2015. Kate Birrell.

 

Spilling from the G

a procession

in Yellow and Black

 

a trudging, heaving

funereal mass,

labouring down and

out.

 

silent stepping

through eucalypt shadows, elongated and entangled

a stepping cortege

stepping away,

again.

 

hushed shmurmers

amidst a jostling communion

as turnstiles click, click

rolling on

 

and twilight skies

falling upon the platform, flat

with cool indigo enveloping

the tethered mass,

standing silent.

 

heads bowed as in prayer

with gazes empty

and dead,

yet restless and watching

 

with hope,

anguished and futile,

that day,

 

descending

into the void below,

to rest.

 

 

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Comments

  1. They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
    That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
    For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
    My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
    Drifting past, drifting past,
    To the beat of weary feet —
    While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

    And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
    To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
    I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
    In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
    Drifting on, drifting on,
    To the scrape of restless feet;
    I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

  2. shmurmers!

  3. Shmurmer……. A guttural mumbling, seeping from the corners of ones mouth, often sharp and direct in tone. I don’t know that you will find in an Oxford dictionary.

  4. I did a lot of Shmurmurring when Geelong played Collingwood in round 22.

    Great stuff Kate.

  5. It really is a perfect word, Kate.
    And now Dips.
    Astounding that it has avoided use until now.

    Makes this post a piece of living history.

  6. How funny, Dave. Haven’t googled it either, just word that has floated about for as long as I can recall, in certain circles too, I guess.
    I’ve suggested its meaning as a guttural mumbling above….but closer thought would bring the word ‘muttering’ as being more apt than mumbling.
    Re tiger fans…. Speechless still.
    Thx Dips, bad luck for cats this season.
    Mulcaster…beautiful words.

  7. I have never heard shmurmer, but I like it. Or shmermer.

    Here’s my guess:

    shmurmer n. – the ripple of behind-hand conversation which crosses a room when Woody Allen walks in with an attractive younger woman

  8. Kate, love it.

    Reminded me of Wilfred Owen. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Have used that in the same context – Geelong v Carlton GF 1995. “Like old beggars under sacks…”

    Mulcaster, Faces in the Street is one of my all-time faves. I used it in Yr11 English as part of my attempt to subvert the influence of ubiquitous (and iniquitous) capitalism. Lawson as Marxist. There is so much in that poem.

    Also, Mulcaster, we have used a Lawson quote as the epigraph of Long Bombs To Snake, our magazine/journal which is about to come out:

    In the land where sport is sacred
    where the lab’rer is a god
    You must pander to the people
    make a hero of a clod

    Nearly called the mag Heroes and Clods.

  9. Here’s the whole poem for you Mulcaster.

    Not very Brideshead I am afraid, old chap. But very Almanac where we sense that footy is merely the primeval slime that gives us a point of beginning:

    A Song of Southern Writers

    Henry Lawson, 1892

    Southern men of letters, vainly seeking recognition here —
    Southern men of letters, driven to the Northern Hemisphere!
    It is time your wrongs were known; it is time you claimed redress —
    Time that you were independent of the mighty Northern press.
    Sing a song of Southern writers, sing a song of Southern fame,
    Of the dawn of art and letters and your native country’s shame.

    Talent goes for little here. To be aided, to be known,
    You must fly to Northern critics who are juster than our own.
    Oh! the critics of your country will be very proud of you,
    When you’re recognised in London by an editor or two.
    You may write above the standard, but your work is seldom seen
    Till it’s noticed and reprinted in an English magazine.

    In the land where sport is sacred, where the lab’rer is a god,
    You must pander to the people, make a hero of a clod!
    What avail the sacrifices of the battle you begin
    For the literary honour of the land we’re living in?
    Print a masterpiece in Melbourne, and it will be lost, I ween,
    But your weakest stuff is clever in a London magazine.

    Write a story of the South, write it true and make it clear,
    Put your soul in ever sentence, have the volume published here,
    And ’twill only be accepted by our critics in the mist
    As a “worthy imitation” of a Northern novelist.
    For the volume needs the mighty Paternister Row machine,
    With a patronising notice in an English magazine.

    What of literary merit, while the Southern reader glories
    In “American exchanges”, with their childish nigger-stories;
    In the jokes that ancient Romans chuckled over after lunch;
    In the dull and starchy humour of the dreary London Punch?
    Here they’ll laugh at Southern humour — laugh till they are out of breath —
    When it’s stolen from the papers that Australia starves to death!

    Do we ask why native talent — art and music cannot stay?
    Why Australian men of letters emigrate and keep away?
    Do we ask why genius often vanishes beyond recall?
    From the wrecks of honest journals comes the answer to it all.
    Over Southern journalism let the epitaph be seen:
    “STARVED BY CHEAP IMPORTED RUBBISH! — AN AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE!”

    Southern men of letters, seeking kinder fields across the waves,
    Tell a shameful tale entitled “Deniehy’s Forgotten Grave”.
    Ask the South of Charles Harpur! Seek the bitter truth, and tell
    Of the life of Henry Kendall, in the land he loved so well!
    Sing the songs he wrote in vain! Touch the South with bitter things;
    Take the harp he touched so gently; show the blood upon the strings!

    It was kind of Southern critics; it was very brave to mouth
    At the volume of his boyhood, that was published in the South.
    Kendall knew it all — he knew it; and the tears were very near
    When he spoke about the sorrows of “the man of letters here”.
    (And his wail of “O, My Brother!” came again to one who went
    To his grave before “his brothers” mocked him with a monument.)

    Banish envy, Southern writer! Strike with no uncertain hand,
    For the sound of Gordon’s rifle still is ringing through the land!
    Ah! the niggard recognition! Ah! the “fame” that came in vain
    To the poor dead poet lying with a bullet though his brain!
    “Gone, my friends!” (he thought it better to be gone away from here),
    Gone, my friends, with “last year’s dead leaves … at the falling of the year”.

    Pleasant land for one who proses, pleasant land for one who rhymes
    With the terrible advantage of a knowledge of hard times:
    To be patronised, “encouraged”, praised for his contempt of “pelf”,
    To be told of greater writers who were paupers, like himself;
    To be buried as a pauper; to be shoved beneath the sod —
    While the brainless man of muscle has the burial of a god.

    We have learned the rights of labour. Let the Southern writers start
    Agitating, too, for letters and for music and for art,
    Till Australian scenes on canvas shall repay the artist’s hand,
    And the songs of Southern poets shall be ringing thro’ the land,
    Till the galleries of Europe have a place for Southern scenes,
    And our journals crawl no longer to the Northern magazines.

    First published in The Bulletin, 28 May 1892

  10. Wilfred Owen is one of my favourite poets. He was mentored by Siegfried Sassoon. In the literature room at the British Museum for years they displayed original hand written poems of Wilfred Owen. One was ‘Anthem for Dead Youth’ which has Sassoon’s edits in red pencil, the most significant of which was crossing out Dead and replacing it with Doomed.

    Here is the one mentioned above:

    DULCE ET DECORUM EST

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest(3) began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots(4)
    Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.
    Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . .
    Dim, through the misty panes(10) and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering,(11) choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud(12)
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)
    To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.(15)

    Wilfred Owen
    Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918

  11. Loving these.
    Lawson’s a call to arms.

    “Clod” is under-utilised.

  12. Kate,
    I was reminded of “Faces in the Street” when I read your poem.
    Henry Lawson has fallen out of fashion, probably about the time they took him off the ten dollar bill.
    He is worth reading and remembering.
    Whenever I get to Sydney (which isn’t often) I try to visit his grave in Waverley Cemetery.
    I like your work.

  13. Kate – In the last 3 weeks have been to the Impressionist gallery at the Musee Dorsay (the greatest art experience of my life); Monet’g garden at Givenchy and Renoir’s house in Cagnes Sur Mer. I keep asking them if they have any Almanac cover paintings on display?
    “Tigers fans et mort” is sort of an antipodean Munch’s “silent scream”. Wonderful.
    As for shmurmer, it sounded sort of Yiddish to me. I searched and found that shurmah is Hebrew for “watched”. Shurmah matzov is special holy bread watched all night to ensure there is no leavening.
    I think you have stumbled onto something.
    The Tigers are clearly the watched bread that never rises. The watched clock that never tolls the hour. Sentenced to a life of eating humble pie (and bread).
    Must ask Yvette our Jewish correspondent about whether the rabbi could give the Tigers a special dispensation.
    On a serious note we had lunch in Paris at a lovely little bistro opposite the main Synagogue on a Sunday. Wedding day. Very wealthy family wedding with ladies in beautiful dresses and men in yarmulks. Guarded by 3 soldiers with sub machineguns. Jes Sui Charlie.

  14. Mulcaster, I didn’t pick up that your words above were lawsons, instead, my first thought was omg…there’s an undiscovered wordsmith living in a Punt Rd terrace house watching for decades, the tiger trudge from the G. Essentially, my view was within the trudge, from behind, with faces obscured.

    Often walk through Waverley cemetery too, superb location. Wondering inthe Lawson piece above, if that is referring to Adam Gordon Lindsay…buried down the road from me at Brighton cemetery.

    Peter B….love your humour…Almanac covers in the Musee Dorsay!@! Blockbuster exhibition on loan from down under. Last Days…
    Of the three galleries above, I’ve only done the Musee…with an 8 yr old in tow a few yrs ago. So one day I will return, with my list of to do’s and less distraction. Also want to check out more of the German Expressionist, I find there use of black intriguing, quite the opposite to the French impressionists, where a certain lightness of being prevails, and rarely, possibly never, a stroke of black.

    John, edits in red pencil….I’ve noticed on WordPress it counts your edits, but stops at 25 +

  15. All the poetry above is wonderful. Decades ago I read Pat Barker’s “Ghost Road” which was based in part on Sassoon and Owen and the war poets from WW1. As I remember it Sassoon was an upper class officer who could not tolerate the duplicity of his class sending working class men to their deaths for “king and country”. He has a death wish – but more out of a sense of fairness. Owen was a working class lad who dies early on in the slaughter of the trenches. One of the other themes of the book is the different approach of the British and Germans to “shell shock” or what we would now call PTSD. The Germans have the example of Freud and treat their “cowards” kindly as men under intolerable stress, which results in them being able to go back to fight much earlier. The British have the “stiff upper lip and pull yourself together man” and largely use electric shock treatment on severe cases, which reduces them to jibbering zombies.
    Sassoon’s friends have him put in a mental hospital because he wants to go back to the front line and fight with his men, when as an upper class officer he does not have to. So by definition he is “mad” for voluntarily doing what they force others to do.
    The book is a fictional imagining based on true events. In the end Sassoon discharges himself and effectively commits suicide by returning to fight in the last weeks of the war.
    The book follows several other characters and themes, not just the war poets. One is how both men on leave and the women now able to do important work because of the labour shortage back home, are sexually liberated by the opportunities and risks of war after the stultifying Victorian era.
    Great book – won the Booker Prize about 30 years ago.

  16. Great work Kate both in words and paints.

    John, you didn’t go for calling the mag “Heroes and Clods”? Too close to Charlie Brown’s “hero or the goat” reference?

    Cheers

  17. Kate and Peter_B

    If you ever go to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam …. be warned … there are two prerequisites. First, it helps if you like the work secondly and most importantly you would need to have spent a couple of hours in one of the specialist cafes before you enter. Worst waste of fifteen euros in my life.
    A great place to spend a carefree day is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam…a wonderful mixture of art and artefacts. Not the least of which is Dirk Hartog’s plate.
    I have an ancient aunt who told me of seeing shell shocked track travellers in the great depression. Standing together shaking, on the side of a track trying to get to the next place where they could collect the dole.
    that would be worth writing about.

  18. Kerrie Gardner says:

    Kate your painting is haunting me, like looking in a mirror I suspect – I’m still not over it. I also love shmurmers (for me it read as trying to talk whilst choking back tears). The words that most resonate for this Tiger are funereal, silent, cortege, tethered mass and heads bowed, empty, anguish and void. And AGAIN! But mostly I’m impressed that this could be written without the million expletives that I’ve uttered since that fateful day.

  19. Susan Sutton says:

    Hi Kate
    Your painting has the all pervading sombre mood most of us have experienced at times. You have expressed it well !
    I felt for the Richmond fans in a big way.
    Thanks for sharing it.
    Susan Sutton

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